Thursday 10 June 2010

Stop thief! Art, theft, mystery.

Since the May theft of 5 works from the Musée d’Art Moderne, coverage of art thefts either seems to have picked, or just become highlighted in my browsing consciousness.

Last week's New York Times magazine ran this fabulous story about art-theft blogger Turbo Paul. Virginia Heffernan writes:

The minute I saw the Paris heist in the news, I knew Turbo Paul would be psyched: traffic to Art Hostage would spike, his brain would rev high and he would get to peddle innuendo and what he presents as underworld intelligence. When news of big heists break, “I am at my toxic best,” he told me. A self-described former dealer in stolen antiques, he says he now actively works “to recover the art.”

This lifted-eyebrow, if-you-know-what-I’m-saying voice makes his blogs irresistible, as does the fact that Turbo Paul knows everything about cops and robbers — or seems to.

Then the other day in the NYT books section, this review of Robert K. Wittman's memoir 'Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures'. Wittman was the founder of the F.B.I's Art Crime Team, and let's face it, the idea of chasing art-stealing villains around the world and diving into the murky depths of the art black market just cries out for a movie treatment. Of course, that's already happened (twice).

Then last night I wandered past a Whitcoulls and saw piles of Noah Charney's 'The Art Thief' on the sale table. That brought to mind Iain Pears' Jonathan Argyll series, and Michael Frayn's 'Headlong'.

Finally, this story of the restoration of a Tintoretto in a stately home in England appeared on the Guardian's site. Scholars are having trouble identifying the subject matter of the painting (Apollo or Hymen marrying someone to someone else?) and the Guardian's interactive turns the work into an iconographical whodunnit. Shades of Dan Brown abound ('Cracking the Tintoretto code').

Trend? Co-incidence? Hyper-awareness? Or at least, some good reading material.

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